Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Why Did I Create the Space Center Program Nearly Thirty Years Ago. What is its Mission? What is the Future? Plus, News from the Soon to Open CMSC. And a Good Story from InfiniD Learning. Plus the Imaginarium Theater.

Hello Troops,

I've been asked many times over the last thirty years why I created the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. The answer comes from my belief that you and I, and all those we know and love, are together on this small blue dot in space. The answer comes from my belief that humankind's destiny lies out there where many things wonderful wait to be known for there is "nothing so far removed from us to be beyond our reach or so far hidden that we cannot discover it" (Rene Descartes).  I wanted to build a program that asked children to look up to see the undiscovered country.

The Space Center's early years were difficult.  Those early imagineering pioneers, those dedicated early staff and volunteers, worked alongside me in our goal to create a space faring civilization - in our own small way and in our own corner of the globe.  Did I ever want to give up?  Yes. What kept the program going?  The excitement of students and teachers, and my firm belief in our mission kept us going. 


There was something I saw and heard those many years ago that cemented my will to continue to move forward at great personal cost.  Someone else had found the right words that inspired me; words I've come back to many times over the decades when I needed to remember the uniqueness and fragility of our existence and the absolute necessity we have to come together, despite our differences, to celebrate the fact that we are here and this is our time to make a difference.   

I'd like to share that experience with you. Perhaps, after watching this, you'll come to understand the power of emotion in education and how something lasting only a few minutes can change a life forever.

The three minutes I spent listening to this master teacher may seem insignificant in a life of 62 years - but they were. They inspired me to pass this reverence of what lies beyond in the darkness that surrounds us, and the importance of what we have here on Earth with my students. And thus, from my sixth grade classroom in the 1980's, sprang the foundation from which the Christa McAuliffe Space Center was built upon.

The power of Dr. Carl Sagan's words, spoken so long ago, still impact today's children through the space centers and our Space Academy's Young Astronauts Program by showing them what is, what was, and what could be - if we cherish the pale blue dot in space we call home.

Mr. Williamson

Are you ready for what lies ahead?  This is the call to look up and venture outward.  

Support the Space Academy's Young Astronaut Program for grades K - 8.  Contact me at to learn how.  


News From the Christa McAuliffe Space Center

How do you build the 2nd largest planetarium in Utah and six state of the art educational simulators? Take a look and see.

Posted by Christa McAuliffe Space Center on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Ten Years Ago.  From The Troubadour's Archives

The Really Late Friday Overnight Camp Night Report


     Not all quiet on the Western Front.

     Its becoming traditional for me to post something about the current Overnight Camp before turning in for the night.
     It's 11:49 P.M. The camp is heavily loaded with boys (34 boys and 5 girls). That means I have four campers sleeping in the Odyssey. Sleeping boys in the Odyssey poses a problem. It's closest to where I sleep therefore any noise they make wakes me up. I told the boys that they could talk until I went to bed - and they are.
     There was a knock on the school's east doors. A dad arrived to pick up his sick son. That leaves 33. He was caught in traffic coming down from Salt Lake. An accident on the freeway.
     Ah, the current conversation in the Odyssey involves how many girl friends each of the boys have. It's interesting the way they try to talk over each other to make their points.
     A lull in the conversation. I think they're getting cold. The air conditioner keeps the Odyssey about 5 degrees above Absolute Zero. Such arctic conditions motivate the boys to crawl up into their sleeping bags for warmth. Soon afterwards they fall asleep, and I follow.
     Overall a good crew and of course we've got a killer staff to working with them.
     I'm getting a sore throat. Could be allergies.
     It's 12:01 A.M. time to go to bed. The air conditioners just switched off. They do this every Friday night at midnight and turn on again ten minutes later.
     Having trouble keeping my eyes open. Best surrender and see if the Odyssey boys will let me have a few restful hours before I'm up again at 5:40 A.M. to clean up before making the WalMart donut run.

Good night.

Mr. W.

A Good Story From InfiniD Learning
Skyler Carr

got totally punked by one of our schools yesterday.

This is a school that has had a lot of super strange tech issues because their school is so old. I'm on the phone with them a lot. Yesterday I was in the neighborhood so I sent them a message asking how they were doing and if there was anything I could do to help. Their assistant principal responded, "yes, please come."

I geared up for another wild ride of troubleshooting, but when I walked into the room, the kids were all in the middle of a mission and things were working perfectly. Confused, I asked what was wrong and she said, "Nothing is wrong. You've helped us with so much that I just figured you'd want to see how much our kids love it."

Imaginarium Theater

The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Imaginarium Theater September 27, 2020 from SpaceCampUtah's Imaginarium on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Warren's Last Day and Magellan Bridge Take Over. Awards Given For Excellence Above and Beyond the Mundane! Jon Parker Discovers Books (and the difference between Bats and Boats). Lorriane Houston Changes Bulletin Board Paper! CMSC News. Imaginarium Theater.

From The Troubadour.  Ten Years Ago This Month

September 9, 2010

Hello Troops,
     Today at the Space Center is brought to you by "The Imaginarium" located in beautiful downtown Wonderland, right next door to the Department of Culinary Inspiration, where the world's greatest chefs access the inspiration to create tomorrow's Michelin Star winning dishes.

 Warren Nuila's Last Day!
     Supervisor and all around good guy, Warren Nuila, spent his last day in Space Center Blues last Saturday. Warren leaves for Germany on Wednesday to serve an LDS mission. Warren worked at the Space Center for the past 7 years as a volunteer, supervisor and flight director. If you've ever flown on a Magellan Camp you probably worked with Warren.

     This is a picture of Warren and his band of cut throat Orion Space Pirates as they prepare to blast their way into the Magellan's Bridge. Unsuspecting younglings, working on the Bridge, were caught off guard and quickly lost all sense of organization as Warren and the gang burst through shouting      "Get them humans!" and "Shiver me Timbers" and "Aaarrgggg!"
     "You're Down and You're Down and You're down. Yes you. Yes you're down and don't argue," shouted the Bridge Supervisor.
     In a matter of minutes, Warren had successfully taken the last Bridge of his Space Center career. It was a moment to be remember for all that participated. I'm sure Warren basked in the joy of knowing he was once again successful, because of his cunning - not to mention overwhelming fire power.

     In fact, here is a shot of Warren basking. Bless his heart. A Legend at the Space Center and the source of many a child's nightmares over the last seven years :)

Good luck Warren and Keep in Touch.

Awards Given For Excellence Above and Beyond the Mundane!

     Yet once again, awards for our awesome volunteers were given at the end of a recent Overnight Camp. In the picture above you see Julie receiving her Odyssey Pin for demonstrating outstanding talent in pushing play and pause. In fact you see Julie showing us the exact thumb she uses when pushing play and pause - mirrored by Emily, Odyssey Set Director, who also uses her thumb to push play and pause.
     Granted, most people use their forefinger to accomplish the same task more efficiently but that isn't the Odyssey way, according to Emily.
     "You'd be surprised at what the thumb can actually do," Emily said during a recent Odyssey training meeting where the Odyssey staff had all their fingers taped together, leaving only their thumbs to control equipment and computers.

     Mr. Daymont is seen here congratulating Eric and Jordan for earning their Magellan Pins. We were limited on time for the award ceremony (due to the consumption of mass quantities of Lorraine's delicious Snickers Chocolate Cake) which is why you'll see Mr. Daymont shaking both boy's hands at once, thus saving approx. 3 seconds.
     "A second wasted is a second lost," Mr. Daymont is fond of saying.

     Stacy, feeling the pressure of time, followed Mr. Daymont's lead and shook both Jordan and Erin's hands at the same time thus congratulating them on earning their Galileo pin. I should point out that Jordan earned his Galileo pin over a month ago but because he was already standing at the front of the room, and seeing an opportunity to be congratulated a second time for an achievement he was already congratulated for, chose to stay and receive the applause and adulation of the assembled staff. Stacy was willing to go along with the deception remembering what happened the last time Jordan was called out for getting a second congratulation. It was unpleasant, to say the least.

Space Center Staff Assist with Central Elementary School Literacy

     Alex Anderson, Stacy Carrell, and Jon Parker spent part of the this afternoon unboxing and stamping reading books for Central Elementary School's literacy program.

     In this picture you see Alex and Stacy unwrapping and stamping the books with Central School's address.

     Jon Parker did the same from another desk. Jon worked separately because he was working at a slower pace.
     "Them books is the coolest," Jon said as he carefully leafed through each book, taking time to appreciate the artwork. "Whoda thought readen could be fun?".
     "OK Jon, what's your favorite?" I asked.

     "This un right here," he replied opening a book about Boats. "I never figured there was so much learning about bats. Bats are cool the way they can't see worth a darn and shout when they fly so everyone in their way has enough time to clear out!"
     "Jon, that book is about Boats," I said quietly, not wanting to embarrass him in front of Alex and Stacy.  He looked over his left shoulder, hoping neither one was aware of his reading blunder.
     "You're right. It's about Boats and Bats!" he exclaimed.
     "You gotta get up early in the morning to pull a fast one on you," I said.

Mrs. Houston Changes Bulletin Board Paper!

     This just in, Mrs. Lorraine Houston was seen in the Discovery Room this afternoon changing the paper on the left bulletin board! This was done secretly. The old paper had been on the board so long most of the staff were fond of it. There was no telling what kind of retaliation Mrs. Houston would suffer if the staff found out it was her that changed the old, yellowed, stained, ripped paper. She was right to do it secretly.
     The new black paper is very nice and black.
     Those of us still at the Center when school got out went in and admired the new paper.
     "It'll do," Stacy said. "It'll do. No reason to get worked up over it."  Everyone agreed.
     Again, just another day at the Space Center.

Mr. Williamson 

An Entry from the Overnight Journal.

September 9, 2010

Hello Troops,
     Just a quick word before turning in for the night. I'm at my desk at the Space Center. It's 11:42 P.M. so therefore it must be an Overnight Camp! Tonight we are hosting 45 4H campers. They're a great group of kids.
     I just returned from checking on the High School Staff in Discovery. The room was dark and the talking robust (and if your interested in what robust means, look it up). The girls are all settled down in the Gym with Mrs. Houston, Metta and a 4H chaperon.
     The junior high boys are sleeping in the Odyssey. Only McKay seems to be talking. The other five are quiet. McKay is telling a story - the plot is confusing because I'm hearing only bits and pieces. The boy campers are in the Voyager.
     It's cold outside, a sure sign of Fall.
     I'm typing this post on my new (gently used) computer purchased from Alex Anderson. Alex is getting a new one. My old desktop is going to the Magellan Control Room to become their Tactical Computer. Aleta, Lorraine and Sheila are happy. With my computer in their Control Room, the Magellan staff won't be borrowing Discovery's laptop every time they need to run their new tactical screens.
     Jon just walked through the Briefing Room.  "Are they settled?" I asked while I typed the paragraph above.
     "They're settled," he replied as he collected his laptop from the side desk.
     Now its time for me to settle. I've got a pad waiting on the floor in front of my desk with my name on it. It will be sweet slumber once my head hits the pillow. I dream I won't be woken up by a needy camper. Six hours of sleep is all I ask. I'll be happy with five but will settle for four is need be.

Sleep tight.
Don't let the bed bugs bite......

Mr. W.

News from the Christa McAuliffe Space Center
By James Porter

Be sure to Like the CMSC's Facebook Page for up to date information on all CMSC happenings. 

If you're going to act like the crew of a starship you have to look like the crew of a starship. Audrey Henriksen has taken up the call to create the stylish new uniforms of the USS Cassini. They are looking fantastic! Well done Audrey and co-designer Jon Parker

Christa McAuliffe Space Center Staff Gather for Planetarium Training

Planetarium Outer Radius Wall

Imaginarium Theater

The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Sunday, September 13, 2020

"Mr. Williamson, Why Don't You Smile." And Why Does Every Odyssey Flight Director Seem So Happy? All From the Archives. Plus Zac Hirschi Marries. Brittney VandenBos is Engaged. News From the CMSC. Imaginarium Theater.

Ten Years Ago at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.  Mr. Williamson, Do You Ever Smile?
September 5, 2010

What do you think of this one? Sincere Enough to be Believable?
This is the best I could do after 30 minutes of practice.

Hello Troops,
They often say that kids say the darnedest things. Perhaps its because they haven't lived long enough to learn what is allowable for politeness sake and what isn't. It's a skill we pick up over time and through experience. How many times have you opened your month and stuck your foot in it? How many times have you said something and the moment the words escaped you realized you put yourself into a social corner you couldn't get out of? Of course, most of these types of blunders can be forgiven because we know the person speaking meant no harm by the statement. They just didn't think before they spoke.

Then we have students that say things they know full well carry strong meanings - capable of pushing someone's buttons to force an overreaction and possible embarrassment. This happened a few weeks ago just as the overnight camp was winding up. I was standing in front of the campers giving my final speech before dismissing them to their parents.

One young teen boy raised his hand just after I told them where to put their pens and pencils we used to complete our camp end satisfaction survey. I normally don't get questions at that point of the wind up speech and wondered what it was about "where to put his pen" he didn't get. I pointed to him so he could speak.

"Mr. Williamson, do you ever smile?" he asked.

I'll admit the question startled me. I was hit broadside by something I wasn't expecting and he wanted an answer. I looked for all the physical clues that would indicate he was joking around but they weren't there. From what I could tell, the question was legit. The issue that immediately came to mind was how to answer. I could have ignored the question with a frown, thus fueling the fire that fed the question and proving to the 44 campers that I was incapable of smiling. Or, I could be honest and say that I wasn't aware I looked liked someone weaned on a pickle.

I had to say something quickly because if I didn't the campers would see a crack in my solid 'Camp Director' facade. If I didn't answer quickly then I'd be admitting defeat to this young teen and that I couldn't do.

I opened my mouth to speak, stopped and gave him the biggest smile I could muster. Then I spoke. "I smile all the time AFTER all of you go home!"

I got a laugh from the rest of the campers. His half smile told me he thought my response was lame but I didn't care - at least I got out of the situation with my dignity. I mean, how can we constantly preach that the Space Center is the Second Funnest Place on Earth without always looking so happy you couldn't imagine yourself being anyplace else at that particular time.

I dismissed the campers and purposefully smiled as I walked down the two long hallways back to my desk to tally the surveys. I also made it a point to smile as I worked through the surveys and kept smiling until I knew the last of the campers were gone. Only then did I relax my mouth muscles and let them go back to their natural droopy state.

I will admit some good did come from his question/statement. I am now painfully aware that my appearance does make a difference in how other perceive the Space Center so I've made a start of the year resolution to try my best to smile more. I know it won't look sincere to those of you that know me well but as long as it passes and genuine to those that don't know me then we are in business.

So, here I am. You may call me the Happy Man that Runs the Space Center. Yes, I'm the guy that soon no one will trust because I'll be smiling all the time (isn't it true, you never trust someone that is always happy and cheerful?)

I'm practicing different smiles at home in the mirror. I've settled on two that look OK. The only problem is my teeth. They carry the slightly yellowish hue that comes from years of drinking Diet Coke. Kyle Herring recommended I have them whitened but fear the only thing capable of whitening these aged ivory relics is pure bleach and the warning labels on Bleach bottles warn against it. I see my dentist for a check up in a few weeks. I'll see what he says - once I get him to stop laughing.

So, life continues here at the Space Center. I spent last week filling our field trip calendar. This week we rehearse our new planetarium shows in the the new Digitarium and I venture back into the Voyager and review my school missions. I haven't flown since the end of last school year so I'm a bit rusty.

Thank you to everyone that reads this blog and a thank you to our many wonderful volunteers and staff. I'm grateful you've put up with my grumpy face all this time without saying something.

Perhaps I need to send more time with the Odyssey Flight Directors. They're always happy, bubbly and all smiley. Tis a mystery.....

Mr. Williamson 

Zac Hirschi Marries.  Another Former Space EdVenturer Finds Happiness Outside of Space Service


Zac Hirschi married Lisa Leikam on September 5.  Zac was a long time volunteer, supervisor and flight director at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center during my tenure as CMSEC director.  He started with me in the Voyager when he was in junior high and stayed with us through high school.  It was Zac who flew my last mission as Space Center director in May 2013.  

Zac flying my last mission as Space Center director on the Magellan.  May 2013 


Zac on the day of his first mission as a Flight Director in the Magellan

Congratulation Zac and Lisa from all your long time friends at the Space Center.  May you both live long and prosper.

Mr W

Brittney VandenBos Engaged to Brandon Decker  

Brittney and Brandon

Congratulations to Brittney and Brandon on the announcement of their engagement. Brittney was another long time volunteer and member of staff of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.  She was the Magellan Set Director for a time and most recently help me create and operate the Young Astronaut program at the Renaissance Space Academy.  

Brittney is a successful businesswoman at DecisionWise in Orem Utah.  

News From the Christa McAuliffe Space Center

Last week James Porter took me on a tour of the new Central School.   I was impressed. A beautiful new school to proudly carry the name "Central Elementary".  The Space Center is still under construction and coming along nicely.  James and Doug work out of an unused classroom in the school until the new center opens. Set up along one of the walls is the computer running the planetarium's software.

James gave me a demonstration of the software.  What I saw was impressive.  The software is fairly easy to use - drop and play in a way, yet still able to deliver a professional planetarium presentation.  You don't need to know computer programming to write and produce a state of the art planetarium show.  

The difficulty comes in creating an engaging show.   This is where Doug steps to the stage.  Doug is the Space Center's curriculum director.  One of his jobs is to create planetarium content.  

Watch for news on the CMSC's grand opening here on the Troubadour and on the Space Center's Facebook page        

And from the Space Center's Facebook page comes this side note about the Center's new trash receptacles.  Have you a suggestion?  Send it in.   

Imaginarium Theater

The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Imaginarium Theater September 13, 2020 from SpaceCampUtah's Imaginarium on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Space Center's Walls Shook and Almost Came Down, Thanks Christine. Timelapse of the CMSC's New Planetarium Dome. Space Center Artwork. The Sixth Simulator Soon to be Named. Imaginarium Theater.

 Hello Troops,

Things are moving along nicely at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center.  Word is the new space center should be open in less than two months.  I've been tracking it closely on the Space Center's Facebook page.  By the way, the CMSC is close to reaching its goal of 5000 Facebook likes.  If you haven't already "Liked" the page, please do so now.  Once that goal is reached James will announce the name of the sixth simulator.

"To the many people asking when we are going to be open again, we are crossing our fingers for no delays and hope to be flying again less than 2 months from now.
Our staff have been working hard on developing content for the planetarium, building updated models of our ships, refining the story universe we operate within, and so many other projects.
It's time to start spreading the excitement that the end is in sight. We use our Facebook page to announce new developments, special offers and discounts, and fun news relating to our program. We set a goal to reach 5,000 followers and we are just 170 friends away. As a part of that goal we said we would reveal the last ship of our fleet and gave a bit of a teaser pictured below. So to encourage you to share our page with your friends we'll reveal a bit more to the puzzle. Here's what the model of our new ship looked like over a year ago.
Help spread the joy of our program by visiting our page, clicking the three little dots . . . and INVITE FRIENDS!"

          James Porter 

Here are the latest updates from the CMSC.  Let's start with a video time lapse of the planetarium dome construction.  


Audrey Henricksen did a few sketches of the simulators all of you grew up to love.  Thanks Audrey! 

Audrey, A Space Center Legend

                             Jon Parker, the flight director with the always present smile

Ten Years Ago this Week on The Troubadour.

The Space Center's Walls Shook and Foundation Trembled.

August 30, 2010
The Imaginarium's Receptionist diving for cover
at the first jolt and cheer heard from the Space Center

At 9:40 A.M. Saturday last the walls of the Space Center shook. In fact, the tremors were felt throughout the Imaginarium and Wonderland. I was sitting at my desk working on the September Volunteering and Staff schedule when the shaking started.

The jolt was preceded by Christine Grosland, one of the Odyssey's Flight Directors, announcing to her crew that they had successfully finished their Overnight Mission. A millisecond later there arouse a sound from the bowels of the Odyssey rarely heard at such a deafening volume. The cheering was so enthusiastic and energetic it caused my desk to rattle. The light fixtures overhead shook, sending me in a panic under my desk to cower in fear the fluorescent light bulbs would explode and shower my desk and chair with shards of glass.

"What the ..." Alex Anderson shouted from the Phoenix Control Room. "Christine has triggered the Big One." 
In a panic so unlike his normally placid self, Alex shoved his young staff out of the way so he could stand in the doorway for protection. "It's every man for himself," he spat, wildly kicking at anyone who came near him. "Flight Directors are more important than volunteers when the ship is going down!"

The cheering continued for what seemed like minutes. Dust from the overhead rafters drifted downward like snowflakes. Ceiling tiles broke free and chairs bounced around the room like popcorn in a hot skillet. The youngest of our volunteers took hold of anything that seemed stable - their eyes, wide with shock.

Students, attending Wonderland's School for the Imaginationally Deprived, dive for cover as the shaking started. These students are brought to Wonderland for specialized treatment designed to reignite their imaginations and creativity. For some, its too much TV, or video games. For others it is a lack of play. And for some, it is the result of their school's overemphasis on standardized testing.

After what seemed an eternity, the cheering stopped. The Odyssey went silent - the shaking stopped. It's said the Wasatch Fault moved a good six centimeters Saturday morning, thanks to Christine, her staff and the excellent job they did - which resulted in a cheer heard throughout Wonderland.

Needless to say, the Odyssey scored a perfect 1 across the board, the first for the summer season. Congratulations Christine and your staff. What an awesome job.

Mr. Williamson

The Power of Imagination.  

A short story by Yours Truly.  There was a time when I'd write short little stories like this to keep my imagination sharp and in good repair for when I'd need to write those simulator missions.  

September 2, 2010

     Samuel Cooper. Age 10. Returned home from school at 3:45 P.M. He enjoyed a cookie taken without his mother's permission at 3:47 P.M. and at 3:49 P.M. stood in the refrigerator's doorway and drank directly from the milk carton - a serious no no. At 3:52 Samuel sat on the front porch of his home on Elm Street in Eugene Oregon. At 4:00 P.M. Samuel closed his eyes and accessed his direct link to Wonderland's Imaginarium. At 4:01 he relocated.
     Samuel Cooper, Age 10 sat on a stone windowsill enjoying the scenery and calm of the fjord. A smell introduced itself from behind - embedded in the musty smell of moss on stone. Something familiar and dangerously foul. He had one hour before mother would call him for dinner. It was time to act......

Imaginarium Theater

The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Imaginarium Theater September 6, 2020 from SpaceCampUtah's Imaginarium on Vimeo.